‘We are still critical of the European Union’

Martina Anderson
Martina Anderson

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will continue to campaign for EU reform notwithstanding her party’s strident support for the international coalition in the midst of Brexit, she has vowed.

Ms. Anderson said republicans were often attacked for criticising what they have viewed as the creeping militarisation and federalisation of the Union.

Ten years ago Sinn Féin campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty on these grounds just as it did against the Nice Treaty ten years before that.

More recently it has opposed Ireland’s proposed participation in the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) bloc which it sees as a pathway to military integration.

While Sinn Féin is now campaigning for a special dispensation for the North once the UK leaves the EU so that its citizens can continue to enjoy the benefits of membership, Ms. Anderson insists reform is still needed.

“We warned people around militarisation. People have criticised Sinn Féin because we are not European enough. Sinn Féin has been critically engaging with the EU and what Brexit has done has brought more people onto that page of critically engaging with the EU because Europe needs reform. It needs serious reform. It was born out of the ashes of World War Two....it is now an institution that is viewed as serving oligarchs and elites and the arms industry and all of that.”

Ms. Anderson accepts there are pros and cons to membership of the EU for working-class people. For example, it’s been pointed out that the campaign for the nationalisation of Harland and Wolff would likely fall foul of EU regulations prohibiting State Aid to industry.

Yet a huge EU export market helps sustain thousands of jobs. It’s a double-edged sword, according to the Sinn Féin MEP.

“Harland and Wolff were building ships for 500 million people. They’ll now be building ships for 80 million in terms of Britain, the market has shrunk,” she said.

The Derry MEP, who sits with the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) group in the European Parliament said she would continue to fight for a more worker-friendly EU for as long as she took her seat in Brussels and Strasbourg.

“Sinn Féin are still critical of the EU. We are in a group of the Left and remain critical of the EU. The EU needs challenged. It is absolutely irresponsible for any MEP to go into an institution and try to repesent it as if it is great. It is not. It is only by sending radical, revolutionary, left wing people with social consciences into institutions that want to bring about a society that’s based on a rights-based society that you are going to bring about effective change.”

She said she was dismayed to see the increase, however modest, in the number of right-wing politicians returned to the European Parliament in the elections in May.

“If you are going to send people who are right-wing, who don’t like immigrants, who want to have a society where global corporations and big industry are in control, where profit is the goal, then austerity is what you get.”